Totalitarian Regime: A History of Dissidents
Revolutionary event in 1975
Despite the repression, the dissidents continued to fight.
The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. The documents were signed by the heads of 35 states, including the USSR. The agreement covered many areas, the key issues of the meeting were the reduction of tension between the capitalist and socialist camps, the resolution of disputes only by peaceful means.
Much attention was paid to the block of humanitarian issues.
Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
Having put his signature, Leonid Brezhnev promised to fulfill the terms of the declaration, which contradicts “developed socialism.” As expected, no one was going to respect human rights, and this is how the Ukrainian Helsinki Group arose.
In 1976, a small group of Ukrainian human rights activists appeared. Units continued to resist the system. For 50 million, there were only 10 brave men that we know about, namely: founder Nikolai Rudenko, Ivan Kandyba, Oles Berdnik, Petr Grigorenko, Nina Strokata, Oksana Meshko, Levko Lukyanenko, Nikolai Matusevich, Miroslav Marinovich, Oleksa Tikhiy. These Ukrainians informed the world community about the facts of human rights violations in Ukraine. The community has also contributed to the implementation of the Helsinki Accords, not only on paper but also in practice.
Unfortunately, by 1980 nearly three-quarters of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group had received 10 to 15 years in prison. Nikolai Rudenko was given $39, Oles Berdnik was given pornographic postcards, and Oleksa Tikhoy had a German rifle stuck in clay in the attic of the barn. New people came to the places of those arrested, but fabricated cases were already prepared for them: Vyacheslav Chornovil was accused of rape, Vasily Ovseenko of resisting the police, Yaroslav Lesev of drug possession. The management was alternately taken over by Oles Berdnik, Oksana Meshko, Vasily Stus.
Crimean Tatar dissidence.
One of the most powerful dissident movements in the USSR was the Movement of Crimean Tatars for the return to Crimea. Initially, the only form of resistance was petitions, signed by over 100,000 people. Initiative groups sprang up in different settlements. In the early 60s, repressions began, but since 1964, young activists have been organizing mass rallies and demonstrations. Since 1966, a new wave of protests has begun – rallies were held in connection with the 45th anniversary of the formation of the Crimean ASSR, but they were brutally dispersed by the police. In 1967, the authorities made concessions and issued a decree “On citizens of Tatar nationality who previously lived in the Crimea.” The following year, it was announced that the entry of Crimean Tatars into the Crimea would be subject to organizational recruitment. By 1979, 15 thousand Crimean Tatars had moved to Crimea, which is less than 2% of their total number.
Larisa Bogoraz, Vyacheslav Chornovil, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Vaclav Havel
In 1969, the Initiative Group for the Protection of Human Rights was created. One of its founders was Mustafa Dzhemilev, an activist of the Crimean Tatar movement, a dissident, a political prisoner, who later became a national hero and led the Krymchak movement for repatriation. In total, he spent 15 years in prison, the man devoted his whole life to the national struggle.
Since 1970, as researchers of the history of the movement and its representatives note, the Crimean Tatar movement has declined, but it has never stopped.
The mass return of the Crimean Tatars began in 1989.
Support for dissidents.
On January 12, 1981, in the vicinity of the metro station Bolshevistskaya, now Shulyavskaya, four young people from Kiev handed out leaflets printed on cigarette paper on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1972 arrests. This action was carried out by Sergei Naboka, Inna Chernyavskaya, Leonid Milyavsky and Lesya Lokhvitskaya. Young people were sentenced to 3 years in the criminal zone.
This action shows, although not massive, but still the support of dissidents, the memory of their struggle and the desire to be followers among Ukrainian youth.
Punitive psychiatry of the 80s.
In the same period, a popular method of dealing with dissidents was punitive psychiatry, invented by the Kdb. You can read about it in our separate post.
The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Guided by the ideas of large-scale political and economic reforms unusual for the USSR, in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the new General Secretary and the so-called “perestroika” began. In the same 1985, Stus died in the camp, and after a 15-year exile from the camps, Vyacheslav Chornovil returned.
The exploded economic sphere, the inability of the union to compete with the United States in the pursuit of arms, the disappearance of essential goods, the beginning of the impoverishment of people and the lethargy of propaganda affected the citizens, so they mustered up courage, in particular, they began to revive samizdat, headed by Ivan Svetlichny.
In 1988-1989, more than two million people were removed from psychiatric records.
In 1989, Vasyl Stus, Yuriy Lytvyn, and Oleksa Tykhoi, who were murdered in the Perm-36 camp, were reburied at the Baikovo cemetery. During their reburial, blue and yellow flags flew over Kyiv for the first time. In less than a year, our flag will be installed in the center of the capital.
In the same year, the emergence of a mass political organization People’s Movement of Ukraine for Perestroika led by Vyacheslav Chornovol and Ivan Drach.
Rally of the People’s Movement of Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia. August 5, 1990
In 1990, two events took place at once: the “living chain” Lviv-Ivano-Frankivsk-Kyiv in honor of the act of merging the Ukrainian People’s Republic of China and the Ukrainian People’s Republic of China and the “Revolution on Granite”. The latter was an unprecedented action in any authoritarian country, because the students achieved the resignation of the head of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR.
The dissidents also succeeded in reviving the UGCC in 1989 and the UAOC in 1990.
In 1991, the long-awaited event was the Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine, the victory of the dissidents.
Some believe that Ukraine’s independence suddenly fell on its head, but this is not the case at all. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians risked everything, defied the authorities, became uncompromising, so that after many years an unburnt heap would emerge from the ashes and blood. It is difficult to imagine Ukraine without dissidents, they won independence by preserving and spreading the spirit of freedom. Many of them, after achieving their goal, continued their activities, and some were destroyed in the camps or staged an accident or suicide. However, thanks and respect for their indomitability will forever be engraved in Ukrainian history.
[Writer Irina Mirochnik is the President at IMMER Group & Doctor of Philosophy in Law(PhD)]
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